Business Development: Vetting Leads Like a Pro: Protecting Your Firm’s Resources
Picture it: a beautifully designed website with a thoughtful, easy-to-navigate layout. The carefully crafted content is high quality and relevant to its intended audience. The keyword placement is laser-focused to attract organic traffic comprised of the ideal client. The website is doing its job – bringing in quality leads.
But when you forward the leads to a partner or technical teammate, it’s crickets. They do not know what to say, take too long to respond, or worst-case scenario, there is no follow-up at all. You think to yourself, “Why have a lead-generating website if no one closes the deal?”
This can be a frustrating place to be, but there are a few things you can do to help improve your website lead close rate.
Prioritize Personalized First Impressions
“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” In a world where consumers are accustomed to instant access to information and immediate gratification, business development strategies must stay ahead of the curve and take every opportunity to make an impactful and memorable impression.
The first interaction a prospect has with your firm is often online. They’ve probably done their research and have narrowed their search down to you and a few of your competitors. Strike quickly. This is your first chance to stand out, and the first firm to respond to an inquiry is often the one the prospect will continue talking with. While automated responses offer immediacy, they lack the personal touch that resonates with people.
The response should be personalized, using their name, and referencing what their interest is based on their message or their journey through the website. Some firms may choose to gently mention minimum fees at this point to save the prospect (and you) valuable time if that price doesn’t fit their expectations. Being transparent about minimum fees reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and sets the tone for an open, communicative relationship between the firm and the potential client.
Asking a few baseline questions can also help legitimize the lead. If they can’t or won’t answer simple questions about their company or needs, this is a strong indicator they aren’t ready to engage. If it’s just a matter of timing for them, you have still taken the opportunity to show them your firm responds quickly and with genuine interest, which is a great first impression.
Take the Initiative in Vetting Leads
Vetting a prospective client before handoff is an essential step. Whether it’s a business development professional or a marketer acting as a gatekeeper, you protect the firm’s resources by keeping the accountants focused on revenue-generating clients.
There are several reputable databases that provide access to helpful intel such as years in business, last known decision-makers, locations, addresses, employee count and estimated yearly revenue. If the business name or name of the person who reached out through the website doesn’t appear to exist in these databases, it’s a red flag. It’s not THE red flag, but it is something to keep in mind as you continue to vet them.
Search engine sleuthing can also uncover some unsavory information relating to their reputation, financial stability, legal issues and other ethical concerns. Look for any news articles or an abundance of bad reviews. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should run for the hills, but it is valuable information to be aware of and carefully consider before engaging.
Determine the Right Professional for the Lead
Once a solid overview of the lead is compiled, choose the professional that makes the most logical sense for this lead, keeping the professional’s capacity in mind. The professional should know what the expectation is for contacting the lead (no more than one business day, bonus points for same-day responses). Hold them to it!
If necessary, forward the lead directly, introducing both parties on the email chain. This not only keeps the prospect in the loop but also reassures them their inquiry is being taken seriously and is progressing within the firm. This is an opportunity to set the stage for the next phase of the engagement. Briefly recap the lead’s needs, interests and any other pertinent information that can aid the accountant.
If they are not able to quickly reach out, communicate this to the lead. People don’t feel ignored or disappointed if they understand what their expectations should be. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Establish a Timely Follow-Up Cadence
The timing of follow-ups can significantly impact the lead’s perception of your firm. Set expectations upfront with the professionals. Business development best practices were not a large focus in their learning path so help guide them. The appropriate amount of time to follow up with a prospective client depends on what stage you are at within the sales cycle.
After presenting fees: follow up within a week to 10 days unless you’ve agreed on a different timeline.
If no response: follow up again after about a week. However, if it’s time-sensitive, you may want to follow up sooner.
Regular check-ins: if a relationship with a prospective client has been built and they’ve expressed interest but haven’t committed yet, checking in every few weeks or once a month can be appropriate. Be careful not to become overly persistent, as this can be perceived as pushy.
It’s all about balance. Show interest and enthusiasm, but don’t make them feel rushed or pressured.
Support the Technical Team
While accountants excel in their technical expertise, business development generally is not their strong suit. It’s up to you to coach and support them through the process. Offer training sessions on best practices throughout the sales cycle and share insights on successful wins and lessons you’ve learned from prospects who did not choose your firm. This collaborative approach ensures the prospect receives a seamless experience from the initial inquiry to deeper engagement.
Regularly Review & Refine Your Strategies
Digital marketing and business development are ever evolving, and so are client expectations. Regularly review your lead management and follow-up strategies to ensure they remain effective. Gather feedback from both leads and the professional team, analyze the results of your efforts and make necessary adjustments.
Marketing and business development support professionals play a pivotal role in the lead management process. You’re not just promoting services; you’re nurturing relationships, ensuring every potential client feels valued and understood. By taking a proactive approach, you can set your firm apart, fostering trust and laying the foundation for lasting client relationships.
About the Author
Nikki Stockham is the business development and marketing specialist at Adams Brown. She uses her prior experience in sales roles to help the firm manage and improve its sales process. She can be reached at [email protected].
Welcome to CPA Growth Trends — your source for information, insights, tools and best practices to drive growth within an accounting firm.
with Danielle Reynolds, Business Development, Manager with Whitley Penn
A business developer’s day involves a myriad of activities from external meetings with business owners and referral partners to scoping calls for initial client connections.